The Des Moines Register, Thursday, June 4, 1998, Page 1M

War on meth is being fought on a new front


    Appanoose County officials have found a potent new weapon in the war on drugs, and it's helped them close 17 methamphetamine labs since December - the second-highest number in the state.
    Sheriff Gerald Banks said the public - from business owners and factory workers to local Boy Scouts - in the rural county of 13,743 has been shown how to spot the signs of meth production.
    It's paying off.  Only Polk County can claim more lab raids in 1998, according to the state's Department of Public Safety, which assists local authorities when the suspected lab involves a large amount of chemicals or appears recently active.  Appanoose County's total of 17 includes 11 labs the state agency helped raid.
    Banks made his latest raid on Monday.  He said the problem has existed for a long time, but in January he helped launch a publicity campaign on how to identify meth labs.
    Store owners were told to be on the lookout for customers buying large amounts of coffee filters, lighter fluid and lithium batteries, which contain ether, a flammable liquid used to make meth.
    "We gave them a list of items they should be suspicious of by themselves or in combination of other items used to make meth," said the county's chief deputy, Gary Anderson.
    Officials also notified Boy Scouts who were helping pick up trash for the Adopt-a-Highway program.
    The Scouts were told to be on the lookout for empty boxes of antihistamine, bottles with hoses, and discarded coffee filters with a powdery residue, among other items.
    It didn't take long for the Scouts to come across several discarded antihistamine boxes, Anderson said.
    Banks said meth labs have been found in a variety of locations, from abandoned farmhouses to pickup trucks.
    That's why Appanoose officials also held classes for local factory workers, showing them the materials used to make meth and allowing them to smell ether.
    The public has helped investigators make about 20 arrests, three of which ended in convictions, Banks said.
    "I'm not sure we have any more than any other place," Banks said.  "We've just been fortunate to make some arrests on it.  The big contributing factor is the public's awareness of (the meth problem).
    "They're sick and tired of drug dealers infesting their communities."

Reporter Shuva Rahim can be
reached at (515) 699-7043 or

Meth raids

Polk 17
Appanoose 11
Wapello 6
Lee 5
Scott 5
Black Hawk 4
Muscatine 3
Henry 3
Adair 3
Dallas 3
Fayette 3

Source: Iowa Department of
Public Safety

The Des Moines Register
Thursday, June 4, 1998, Page 1M